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Publisher's Summary

Revolutions in thought (as opposed to those in politics or science) are in many ways the most far-reaching of all. They affect how we grant legitimacy to authority, define what is possible, create standards of right and wrong, and even view the potential of human life. Between 1600 and 1800, such a revolution of the intellect seized Europe, shaking the minds of the continent as few things before or since. What we now know as the Enlightenment challenged previously accepted ways of understanding reality, bringing about modern science, representative democracy, and a wave of wars, sparking what Professor Kors calls, "perhaps the most profound transformation of European, if not human, life."

In this series of 24 insightful lectures, you'll explore the astonishing conceptual and cultural revolution of the Enlightenment. You'll witness in its tumultuous history the birth of modern thought in the dilemmas, debates, and extraordinary works of the 17th and 18th-century mind, as wielded by the likes of thinkers like Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Pascal, Newton, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau.

And you'll understand why educated Europeans came to believe that they had a new understanding - of thought and the human mind, of method, of nature, and of the uses of knowledge - with which they could come to know the world correctly for the first time in human history, and with which they could rewrite the possibilities of human life.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1998 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1998 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Astonishingly engaging

Professor Kors has an uncanny ability to enter into the spirit and motivations of the creative minds of this period, and to convey the drama and implications of their discoveries and creations. I am a voracious reader of history, philosophy, and intellectual history, and I have learned so much, and now have so many tempting side trails to explore. This man loves his subject, and would be just my kind of conversation partner: a delight.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating Period, Brilliantly Explained

I purchased "The Birth of the Modern Mind" after being captivated by Professor Kors lectures on Voltaire. There is a little overlap with Voltaire of course, but even more helpful was the clear and fascinating description of what came before and what evolved in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Development of ideas, thought, science, big questions of religion and philosophy of the times are accessible through the professor's enthusiastic and knowledgeable presentation.

As in his Great Courses book on Voltaire, each half-hour lecture is dense with information, but easy to understand. Each lecture is an excellent companion to a walk on a nice day. And as I mentioned in my review of the Voltaire, Prof. Kors has a distinctive style of talking and accent, so much at first you might go, "oh, I'm not sure I can listen to this" - but that enthusiasm, passion, and humor makes him come alive as if you were sitting in a favorite professor's classroom. Give him a chance if you are at all interested in the history of thought, ideas, and many of the issues that still fuel our modern day discussions of truth, faith, intellect and science.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Clear and complete

It's a clear, accessible and complete vision of the history of western thinking in the XVII and XVIII centuries. I found it very helpful.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Listen at 1.5 speed

Listen at 1.5 speed. Much more manageable, won't miss anything at all. Enjoyed it quite a bit but lecturer is quite slow, hence, listen at an increased pace

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Donald
  • Dallas, TX, United States
  • 08-29-13

Good material, annoying voice

A physics student would normally be enraptured to watch Einstein write out the equations of Relativity on a chalkboard, because it would be a display of genius and mastery. But, if Einstein put down the chalk, and instead proceeded to write out the equations with his fingernail on the chalkboard, the screeching sound would erase most of the pleasure from the experience.

I have mixed feeling in criticizing the speaker for his annoying voice, becuase this is not an audiobook with a professional reader....but rather a lecture given by a professor. At the same time, the "Great Courses" series is supposed to represent the best lecturers that our universities have to offer. In the same way that some people couldn't stand G.W. Bush pronouncing "nuclear" as "nucular"; I can't stand hearing "human" pronounced "yooomun".

If you want to learn about the topic, I would recommend the audiobook. If you want to enjoy the 12 hours, I would advise listening to the preview first.

P.S. Some of this same material was covered in "The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition", and the speaker in that series was a delight to listen to.

18 of 27 people found this review helpful

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The best great courses course i've heard so far!!<br />

For me, the best course i've heard so far!
A lot of useful information. Professor Alan's delivery is exceptional!

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Great Lecturer, Great Course.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The Enlightenment is an inherenlty fascinating period as Europe shakes off the mental shackles of centuries of scholasticism and discovers/invents the tools to unleash astounding progress in every sphere of learning. This course was an excellent introduction to the period, stressing: introduction. Lecture topics typically focus on an individual thinker or two and of course someone like Descartes has enough depth to merit an entire university course rather than a single lecture. But as found here, the lectures are not dumbed down or oversimplified. The course promises an overview and it delivers. Kors is a brisk no-nonsense lecturer, enthusiastic, very up-beat and pleasant, a man obviously in love with his subject, who delivers crisp, well-conceived, well-organized lectures in a clear style (and a rather thick Jersey -- or was it Brooklyn? -- accent). I found him truly a pleasure to listen to. You need a college vocabulary at times, and he doesn't spoon feed. So Kors for example will say "Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss -- all talk -- " without explantion of the connection between 'Pangloss' and 'all talk' -- you either got it, or not. But I was never confused nor do I think an average college educated listener will be. What I most enjoyed and least expected in this course was the way Kors illuminated things about the Enlightenment I thought I already understood. So, for example, I thought I knew what the scientific method was, but I appreciate if far better now having heard Kors lecture on Francis Bacon's New Organon. Kors doesn't do much direct quotation from his sources, I wanted to hear a little more of the actual words of the great minds being discussed. But the few quotes he does share seem very well chosen. Kepler's effusions when he grasps that planets in elliptical orbits aren't complete bullshit (his initial reaction to them!) but perfect expressions of harmonious mathematical relationships, are an early high point. When the course was over, I wanted to listen again.

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Interesting in parts

Enjoyed overall. I felt the scope was
A bit more shallow than I would have liked. I wanted more about Locke's theory of government. Also, I wouldn't mind some editorial information, rather than straight reporting. Not my favorite set of lectures, but not bad.

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Engaging, eloquent

Informative, engaging, insightful. Prime Intelectual history course I constantly was rewinding to not miss a single bit. Totally worth it

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Great way to understand modernity<br />

Totally helped me understand the breaks from antiquity, and how and why our founding fathers thought and established this county upon its ideals.

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  • Andrea Zuvich
  • 04-28-15

Absorbing and enlightening

What made the experience of listening to The Birth of the Modern Mind: The Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Centuries the most enjoyable?

The amount of information included in this course was excellent - even though I study all these things, I still found it fascinating and I came away thinking about the philosophical topics in a better way.

Who was your favorite character and why?

N/A

What does Professor Alan Charles Kors bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Some other reviewers have been overly harsh about Professor Kors’s delivery and pronunciation. It’s a lecture series and he has a regional accent. Get over it. Honestly, some of the negative reviews nearly made me refrain from purchasing the series altogether and I’m glad I didn’t do that. I would have missed out. I actually find the professor’s pronunciation quite endearing really. And anyway, it’s supposed to be about the content – and that is great. Professor Kors obviously has a lifelong passion for the intellectual history of the 17th and 18th centuries and his enthusiasm is wonderful to listen to.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • cath haye
  • 06-17-18

Loved it

An excellent and informative history on the roots and branches of modern thought. Makes me want to start it over and branch out into more research into those times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicholas Windmiller
  • 07-19-18

solid lecture series on the subjuct

good lecture series I possibly would have liked more detail on the subjects discussed opposed to big picture portraits

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  • anonymous aussie
  • 04-09-17

Helped with my study

Would you consider the audio edition of The Birth of the Modern Mind: The Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Centuries to be better than the print version?

They compliment each other.
So no - both equally valuable for obvious reasons.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Kors delivers in a slower pace - which I believe is to allow the listening student to absorb/note points of interest or relevance.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

I like how Kors unfolds the information to you.
It's digestible and easy to follow.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Nope.
Repeat plays for this one.

Any additional comments?

Great buy.
I'm really glad I chose it, as it gave me an alternative perspective on the period I am studying, from an expert in that particular field.
Kors loves his topic and easily relays the important stuff to you as the listener but in an informal, relaxed form.